Insane Pickup Truck

This is a surprising pickup truck - a Ford F150 with a 6.2L V8 engine that pushes 411hp. There are a number of other vehicles that are similarly powerful, but this truck has an impressively engineered suspension that allows high speed off-road travel.

This one was spotted in the wild at a gas station (fuel economy is 11/14mpg) in south Pierce County.


Twilight approaches in Charlestown, MA.

This is a two blocks away from the Warren Tavern, where Paul Revere frequently enjoyed a pint or three. I enjoyed a Boston Brick Red, on tap from Sam Adams (the brewer, not the founding father).

Charlestown is also the location of the 2010 film The Town.

MIT Dome

The Great Dome of MIT is preferred site of student hacks. Some, including the Campus Police Cruiser hack, are exhibited in the nearby Stata Center.

The dome also houses what looks to be a spectacular reading room in the Barker Library.

Edgerton Dropper

A display at the Edgerton Center shows one of Harold Edgerton's many strobe inventions. This shows two streams of droplets that are released in synchronization with a strobe flash. The image captures two flashes, though the droplets are mostly superimposed on one another.

Edgerton was commissioned by the Atomic Energy Commission through the 1950s and 1960s to develop techniques to photograph nuclear explosions.

Fallout Shelter

Under this building lies a fallout shelter with room for 1755 souls. One would expect to spend a minimum of two weeks in the shelter if there were an event requiring its use.

There's extensive discussion about the 1961 program to produce this sign in an excellent Rolling Stone article.

Brook Trout

Brook trout are seen at the Rocky Reach Dam fish ladders.

The dam was completed in 1961, and has been since upgraded to produce 1287MW, or about as much as single modern nuclear power unit. Alcoa has a large aluminum smelter a few miles away, and has long term contracts on power from the dam.

Interestingly, Alcoa is buying the power alone, and not the "environmental attributes" of that power, meaning that the Chelan P.U.D. can resell the greenness of Alcoa's portion of dam power generation to gullible consumers in Portland.

Light Rail Tunnel Segments

A flatbed truck delivers precast concrete tunnel lining segments to the future University station of Link Light Rail. They're being brought from Traylor Technopref Precast in Tacoma.

The tunnel boring machines must have been making forward progress, as trucks keep arriving here with tunnel segments.

United p.s.

United Airlines brands its California to New York nonstops as United p.s., for premium service. I've taken 137 segments operated by United mainline jets (and another 60 on United Express carriers like SkyWest), but this was my first p.s. flight. It is both difficult to upgrade, and difficult to route on fares not terminating in New York.

Every seat is a decent one, and more than half the space on the plane is devoted to business and first class seating. Here are the the appetizers served with lunch, and Steve McQueen's The Getaway playing on the provided media player. Service was excellent.

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes wears #65 for the New York Yankees, and is a strong starting pitcher. Against Seattle this evening, he pitched six innings and allowed a single run.

Here he's warming up in Safeco Field's visitors bullpen.

Osborne Fire Finder

A hot late-summer trip up Granite Mountain was rewarded by an opportunity to tour the wildfire lookout tower that's perched there. Forest Service volunteers had spent the previous night up there, and were busy scanning the horizon for smoke, as it is peak fire season.

This fire tower houses a beautiful Osborne Fire Finder with carefully oriented map to align sightings with the many visible features from this vantage.

First Crossings of the Columbia

The Columbia River Bridge in Wenatchee is the "first automobile crossing of the Columbia in the US," completed in 1908. All those qualifiers betray a bit of history:
  • In 1886 a rail bridge was erected by the CPR at First Crossing, BC
  • The first US rail bridge across the Columbia was opened at Pasco, WA in December 1887. It was immediately damaged by river ice, and wasn't permanently repaired until 1888.
  • There were multiple automobile crossings in BC prior to 1900
It's now a lovely pedestrian trail, and also carries a pipeline.

Corry's Slug and Snail Death

Snails were decimating the foliage of a newly planted dahlia in our front yard. Although I managed to remove one or two, they were pretty good about sneaking back to their hiding places under the cover of darkness.

A single evening baiting of Corry's Slug and Snail Death lead to mass snail carnage. I never imagined that there would be so many! My flowers are now safe.

Skookum Indian Girl

When looking for reasonably-priced office supplies, one might come across impressively detailed signage at the corner of the building. A cheerful Indian faces two directions, with mechanized eyes tirelessly scanning the Wenatchee horizon.

This is the mascot of Skookum, Inc, a Wenatchee fruit packing company that's been around for a century. It was registered as a trademark in Canada in 1932!

Soda Springs

Soda Springs actively bubbles away within a campground near Lake Wenatchee. The water is somewhat carbonated, and strongly flavored. It isn't very alkaline at all; I imagine it is named for the bubbles rather than the pH level.

Poet's Ridgeline

This is the Poet's Ridge, connecting Poe Mountain with Whittier Peak in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. A forest service road offers handy access to nearby Irving Pass, and once up on the ridge you could hike for 8 miles along it. The views were superb, and there was very little hiking traffic.

Guerrilla Gardening

This crop of tomatoes is the fruit of guerrilla gardening, or at the very least, guerrilla harvesting. Our lease was up at the end of August, just when the harvest was getting going. I've since visited unofficially to collect goodies from the back yard. Yummy!

Alaska/SkyWest Sunset

Alaska Air runs a fleet of 737s, and farms out regional flying to Horizon and SkyWest. SkyWest operates five CRJ700s (like this one) to Alaska Air destinations that are a bit too far to serve on slower Horizon Dash 8s. Unlike other CRJ700s, this subfleet is not configured with a first class cabin.

SkyWest holds two operating certificates comprising a fleet of 436 aircraft, the world's seventh largest.

Dodgy Parking

Through research and perseverance, I've secured free on-street parking within reasonable walking distance of the Sea-Tac Airport.

On a recent trip, a neighboring free-parking vehicle was seen with an impressive bullet hole through the passenger door. I take comfort in observing that the shooting was long enough ago for the unpainted metal to show quite a bit of rust.

Mattei Building, Fresno

The Mattei Building in central Fresno was erected by Swiss-Italian Andrew Mattei, and was completed in 1921. He was the winemaker behind 1200 acres of Fresno area vineyards, and must have done quite well to have $1.2M left over to build this structure.

It has had a succession of owners, including Guarantee Savings Bank. The bank put a prominent electric sign under their "G" noting the current time and temperature. They too lost it in 1990s.

Like much of downtown Fresno, it is in decline.

Yosemite Valley

Here's a more standard view of the Yosemite Valley. Mount Hoffman (from Tuesday) is seen on the horizon to the left and despite this perspective is higher than Half Dome on the other side of the valley.

Bennettville Mine

Bennettville was a California mining town across 1882-1884. The company hauled equipment up a track that became the Tioga Pass Road, the only eastern way out of Yosemite National Park.

Very little silver or gold was found, the company went bankrupt, and the town was abandoned. The site is at an elevation of around 9800ft, and it would have been pretty grim up there over those two winters. This is a 1993 reconstruction of the bunkhouse and barn.

Mono Lake Tufa

The tufa towers poking out of Mono Lake are made of calcium carbonate, not unlike the formations that grow among hot springs and geysers.

This is the place where some NASA biologists gathered bacteria they claimed could happily substitute arsenic in place of the regular phosphorus needed for cellular functions. A life form based on poison? Sensational!

Sadly, it was thoroughly debunked; see Slate's accessible summary, or the technical refutation by UBC biologist Rosie Redfield. The methods were sloppy and the claims unsubstantiated. It is unlikely that any of the bacteria could live without any phosphorus.